Agenda and minutes

Housing Scrutiny Committee
Thursday 27 July 2017 7.00 pm

Venue: Board Rooms 3, 4 & 5 - Brent Civic Centre. View directions

Contact: Nikoleta Nikolova, Governance Officer, tel: 0208 937 3639 

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies for absence

Minutes:

None

2.

Declarations of interests

Members are invited to declare at this stage of the meeting, any relevant personal and prejudicial interests and disclosable pecuniary interests in any matter to be considered at this meeting.

 

Minutes:

Councillor Long declared that she had a sister who lives in a tower block

 

Councillor Harrison declared that she was a member of the BHP Board and BHP Resident and Member Panel

 

 

3.

Fire safety measures for tower blocks across Brent pdf icon PDF 247 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

At the invitation of the Chair, Hakeem Osinaike (Operational Director Housing), provided an update on planned fire safety measures in tower blocks across Brent. As part of the wider programme, Mr Osinaike explained that measures were being taken in relation to assessing potential risks, providing assurances and responding to wider public interest. Members heard that following the Grenfell Tower incident and as part of the fire risk assessment programme all 37 high rise buildings of 6 storeys in Brent were revisited by the Estate Services Team and were having Fire Risk Assessments carried out. The recommendations in those fire risk assessments were currently being implemented and would form the basis of a programme that the Council can take forward. The committee was also informed that following the Grenfell Tower incident the Council had received several Freedom of Information (FoI) requests, all of which had been responded to and information published on the website. Dates for drop in sessions had also been set up at each tower block where residents could get more information on future developments and share any concerns they might have.

 

In the following discussion, members had an opportunity to ask further questions on the report relating to fire safety assessments, costing, impact on tenants and leaseholders and quality of contractors work.

 

In relation to fire safety assessments, Mr Osinaike explained that until the end of August 2017 the Council would be carrying out its statutory responsibility for non-intrusive Type 1 visual checks which would cover all communal areas but not individual flats. This would also include electrical testing of all appliances in communal areas as well as advice for residents on avoiding issues in their own homes. In addition he said that the Council had adopted the London Fire Brigade Tool and was using it to check that buildings which had recently undergone major works were fire safe. Mr Osinaike pointed out that depending on the outcome of the assessments the Council could take a decision to carry out more intrusive Type 4 checks which would involve going into individual homes. Within a wider context, it was stressed the importance of gathering intelligence not just for Council owned buildings but also for any commercial or registered provider buildings in order to get an overview of the fire safety situation in Brent. Members were reassured that the Council seeks collaborative working with other housing associations and as part of this will meet on 16th August to discuss fire safety with more information regarding this meeting to be provided to members at a future date. In terms of registered providers who have ACM cladding, Peter Gadsdon (Director Policy, Performance and Partnerships) explained that a fire management plan had been enhanced in those buildings and the local authority (LA) was in discussion with the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and the landlords to ensure they were communicating effectively with tenants. In addition he said that a report had recently been published listing all buildings in Brent with  ...  view the full minutes text for item 3.

4.

Update on Transition back to the Council and the BHP Transformation programme pdf icon PDF 340 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Phil Porter (Strategic Director for Community Wellbeing) introduced the report which gave an overview of the transition of the housing management function and the housing operations transformation programme which was required irrespective of the decision to bring BHP back to the Council. In his presentation, Mr Porter focused on two key strands: transition and transformation.

 

On transition, Mr Porter explained the focus was to bring BHP back within the Council covering the governance arrangements, contracts and staffing. Members also heard that although BHP would remain responsible for the service during the transition period, joint governance arrangements would also be put in place to ensure collaborative working (Housing Operations Transformation Board, Resident and Member panel). As far as transformation was concerned the committee was informed that a broader transformation would also run parallel with the transition, to ensure full optimisation of processes and technologies, resident engagement and tailoring the new service to their needs. The predominant approach would be “lift and shift” (by 2nd October), a restructure was likely to start in January 2018 with full implementation of all changes by June 2018.

 

Discussion centred around issues related to contracts, staffing, resident engagement, budget, performance and service management. With regard to contracts, a member of the committee enquired about existing issues with multiple contracts across the borough, in particular Veolia, and was told robust contract management and working through individual issues was required and that this approach was led by the Regeneration and Environment Department.

 

A member also asked a question on land ownership and “un-adopted land” as one of the main source of issues with regard to contracts. Phil Porter explained that such issues had been avoided for too long and it was only now that they were being brought to attention as part of the current transformation.

 

In response to members questions on information given to residents and working with housing association to engage as many of them as possible, Phil Porter responded by saying that although the local authority could hold contractors to account and provide support where the necessary, communication with residents was ultimately their responsibility. He acknowledged that the service had to be responsive to resident needs and assured the committee that work with housing associations will continue in order to improve contact opportunities for people. In addition, a member commented on the existing communication gap and how it may affect the welfare of vulnerable groups during the transition period. Phil Porter acknowledged the importance of maintaining strong relationship between BHP and Adult Social Care teams and insisted that the Council is determined to do things differently and focus on joint work and encouraging culture change. He assured that practical changes had been put in place including changes to senior management, improving staff performance and overall department synergy. In addition he explained that a building management database was currently being put together the information from which would go on to the GIS mapping facility and will form a publicly available portfolio of properties.

 

The committee  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

5.

Co-opted Members pdf icon PDF 95 KB

Minutes:

Mark Cairns (Policy and Scrutiny Manager) presented the report which set out a suggested process for appointing co-opted members to the Housing Scrutiny Committee, taking into account evidence from other London Boroughs. He explained that two BHP - resident co-opted members – one tenant and one leaseholder - would be sought to be recruited. The recruitment process would run throughout August with the intention to bring nominated names to the committee in September before final approval at Full Council on 18th September 2017.

 

Members noted the recommendations in the report and, in the following discussion, further commented on the issue with the large number of registered providers in Brent, and what platforms were available to their residents to voice any concerns they might have. Suggestion was made to set up a forum for registered providers’ residents and encourage the formation of more resident associations as a way of empowerment. In response, Cllr Farah (Cabinet Member for Housing) reassured the committee that the Council was committed to having a meaningful dialogue with registered providers in order to ensure that residents have a collective voice. He expressed willingness to collaborate with RPs and Regeneration department to hold further discussions and report back to the Committee on any future developments.

 

RESOLVED that:

 

 i.        the recommendations in the report be noted and that membership is extended to two non-voting co-opted members following a recruitment process as outlined in the report;

ii.        shortlisted names of applicants be forwarded to the next Full Council meeting on 18th September 2017 for appointments to be formally made;

iii.        a review be conducted of the co-opted member arrangement be brought back to the Committee in February 2018

iv.        a report be presented on engagement with Registered Providers

 

6.

Housing Committee Work Programme pdf icon PDF 85 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Members noted the contents of the work programme.

7.

Any other urgent business

Minutes:

Lynton Close traveller’s site visit on 4 August 2017.